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Be-Bound and SycaPay: A Partnership to Develop Mobile Money for the Ivory Coast

We are thrilled to formally announce our partnership with SycaPay. This partnership is exciting for us because it demonstrates how Be-Bound’s connectivity technology contributes to the mobile economy in general. Our first project together, known as SycaPOS, will take place in the Ivory Coast, in collaboration with another of our partners: Famoco. With the integration of Be-Bound, SycaPOS terminals will have connectivity everywhere, enabling mobile money transactions, even where there is no internet.

Since mobile money was first launched in 2001, the African continent has seen the fastest uptake in the world, and maintains a leading role in the share of active accounts worldwide. But the swift rise in mobile phone penetration and interest in mobile money is not without its setbacks. Problems with mobile connectivity and a lack of interoperability among operators are obstacles that are barring mobile money’s full adoption.  SycaPOS solves these issues to make mobile money possible everywhere.

The Importance of Providing a Universal Payment Solution

Any mobile payment transaction, wherever it takes place, functions via an internet connection between the payment terminal and the contractual operator that houses the mobile account (mobile money service providers/mobile network operators). In order to successfully carry out a payment, a merchant must have an existing contract with the operator concerned with the transaction in question. Given that each country has many operators, the system can at times be fragmented. Difficulties can arise when so many different actors are providing mobile money services: there is a real lack of interoperability, not only for payments made within the country, but also for payments international payments. Without adequate partnerships, merchants risk alienating certain clients when payments cannot be cleared. To put this risk in perspective, one needs to understand how popular mobile money has become with clients. As an example, according to the GSMA State of the Industry Report on Mobile Money, Decade Edition 2006-2016, “in Sub-Saharan Africa, there were 277 million registered mobile money accounts in December 2016 – more than the total number of bank accounts in the region.” Therefore, interoperability is a problem that needs solving.

Growth of Mobile Money in Sub-Saharan Africa
Growth of Mobile Money in Sub-Saharan Africa

SycaPOS: SycaPay’s Interoperability Solution

The SycaPOS project provides a multi-operator payment terminal, aggregating services to guarantee interoperability, making payments much more flexible. With SycaPOS, merchants can fulfill a transaction no matter what operator the client is using.

Getting POS terminals to connect to the internet at all times can also be problematic, especially for rural areas in Africa. Forty percent of Africa’s population is largely rural, in areas where internet infrastructure is still weak or nonexistent. The African continent still struggles with a digital divide due to this lack of infrastructure.   To solve this  problem of limited connectivity for POS terminals, SycaPay is the first African startup to have integrated Be-Bound technology, which guarantees optimal mobile connectivity on all networks (even where there is only 2G), thanks to our patented compression algorithm (N4B). SycaPOS connectivity will be powered by Be-Bound, and will enable SycaPay to offer mobile payment services everywhere, including in the most remote regions of the Ivorian territory where internet coverage is nearly non-existent.

SycaPOS lifts the barriers on mobile payments, which greatly facilitates business for the merchant, and life for their clients. With SycaPOS, mobile money can be a reality for anyone in the Ivory Coast.

Ismael SOW - Co-Founder of Syca SAS
Ismael SOW
“In the Ivory Coast, the mobile money market is colossal! Our ambition is to transform all informal transactions – the daily payments that are in large majority still cash – to digital. I speak of course of the small retail activities like clients paying for groceries with their mobile, but SycaPOS also aims to work with classic large-scale distributors by proposing different services with strong added value. “ – Ismael SOW, CEO and Co-Founder of Syca SAS

The Ivory Coast: A Significant Opportunity for Growth in Africa

Each day, the country sees nearly 26 million Euros exchanged between different mobile money accounts. With the arrival of Orange bank to the Ivory Coast territory in 2008, mobile money became one of the most popular ways to process financial transactions, and was much more reliable and efficient than cash. In less than 5 years, there were more mobile money account holders than normal bank account owners (24% vs 14% in 2014). Although the country’s rate of banking doubled in ten years, From 7.1% in 2007 to 16% in 2016, the Ivory Coast still suffers from a lack of inclusion in the banking system – something that will certainly change with the continued growth of mobile accounts.

Mobile Money = Financial Inclusion

Mobile money is the way to reach and finally include those who have been financially excluded, people who have for too long relied on informal transactional methods such as sending cash in an envelope via strangers to reach the intended recipient. The successsful implementation of mobile money can in large part be attributed to the financial inclusion community: academics, standard-setting bodies, donors, and thought leaders. Groups and initiatives such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Omidyar Network, the CGAP, the MasterCard Foundation, the Better than Cash Alliance, the World Bank, the Sustainable Development Goals, and others, have over the years been working to advance the needs of low-income individuals. Their work has raised awareness as to the benefits that financial inclusion would bring to the global economy.

For decades, and still to this day, banks have largely ignored low-income individuals because they could not carry the balance required to bring banks their necessary profits. Therefore, the banking system has accommodated wealthier individuals. And since the majority of Africa’s population, and populations in developing countries overall are not wealthy, most transactions have been done in cash. Mobile money is a real alternative that responds to the needs of the African continent. It’s a natural next step for Africa which has already seen a boom in mobile, to make use of the mobile solutions that can further drive their economy – solutions that go beyond talking, texting and surfing the internet. It’s already acknowledged that countries like India are leap-frogging more developed countries with their mobile-first agendas. African countries, and developing countries in general, have the most to gain from turning toward a mobile economy, and mobile money is an example of how they’re doing exactly that.

Albert Szulman
Albert Szulman
“By giving access to our patented technology to local companies in emerging countries, we’re contributing together to bridging the mobile digital divide, with a focus on inclusive growth. We’re very proud to work with Ismael SOW and his local teams in the Ivory Coast, with whom we’ve found common ground in our shared values. We were also very impressed by their level of expertise and speed with which they integrated our technology for their innovative solution. “ – Albert Szulman, CEO and Founder of Be-Bound